Today I have a fantastic guest post from Jai Richard, writer of the blog Tea for Bohemia, on how she is going plastic free in her bathroom
Like many people I strive to minimise the plastic that enters my house: I take my canvas bags to the supermarket, I don’t buy bottled water and, on occasion, I have been ridiculed for taking home and washing the plastic cutlery due to be disposed at the end of a picnic. However it was only relatively recently I realised that plastic need not be an unavoidable fact of life should I wish to be clean and smell nice.
For the dedicated the internet contains a wealth of recipes for cooking up your own soaps or how to boil linseeds to make hair gel. Fantastic! My bookmarks bar is filled with recipes and DIYs that I one day hope to get round to trying, but in all honesty being between houses, with all my worldly possessions in storage, and living in a pimped up cupboard under the stairs,there is a lot to be said for the convenience of simply being able to buy a deodorant.
After the jump find my suggestions for plastic-free alternatives to everyday bathroom products to make your bathroom a happier place!
Shunning all shower gels and liquid hand soap dispensers is an easy place to start; they not only use a tonne of plastic packaging but as they contain water as a main ingredient they are bulky and heavy, consequently requiring more vehicles and fuel for transport.
By comparison bars of soap are often cheaper to buy, require minimal (or no) packaging and more often than not, contain fewer environmentally damaging substances (for example the detergents in shower gels are often petrochemical products derived from fossil fuels). Additionally, because you can’t be squirt happy with soap, soaps tend to last significantly longer.
This is a no-brainer, swapping your hand wash and shower gel for soap is win-win.
My favourite soaps can be bought online:
- The Little Soap Company describe themselves as an eco-savvy handmade pure soap company. The organic English Rosemary and Thyme bar is my favourite.
- Soapnuts have a wonderful range of organic, vegan, hypoallergenic, chemical and cruelty free handmade soaps. How delicious does Banana and Buckwheat sound?
- You’re Gorgeous carefully source products and handmake their soaps using traditional methods. They sell their soap by the kilo log for you to slice yourself at home – worth stocking up the cupboards with.
The same principle applies to shampoos and conditioners as to shower gels – the amount of plastic used to make the bottles, the often extortionate prices and the fuel consumption for transportation does not make them particularly environmentally friendly products.
Shampoo bars are the perfect alternative; they last for the equivalent of approximately three bottles of shampoo, they require absolutely no packaging and their smaller size and weight make them more commercially portable.
If you ever tried using shampoo bars in the past and were disappointed, now is the time to give them a second go, they have come a long way. My first dabble in the world of shampoo bars left me with dry, static riddled hair but now, with the bar I use, I cannot tell the difference from regular shampoo.
Again, my favourites are:
- I have used the Squeaky Green Solid Shampoo Bar from Lush for several months now; it lathers wonderfully and my hair is shiny and healthy. (07/15 edit – this shampoo bar is no longer available but try Seanik, also from Lush) instead
- Soapnuts have a selection of shampoo bars that use the soapnut as the main ingredient; soapnut shells are the only organic detergent that grows on trees. The Dead Sea Mud shampoo is on my wishlist.
- The Funky Soap Company are a small handmade soap company based in London who sell their products, including some mean looking shampoo bars, conveniently, through Amazon and eBay. They carefully source ingredients to make intriguing bars such as Sea Kelp and Rhassoul Clay shampoo.
Hair Care and Styling Products
Despite searching high and low, I have yet to find a convenient alternative to the readily available hair products my partner depends on. The best I have been able to find is Natural Hair Sculpting Wax from the Go Eco Store (edit 02/06/14 – currently unavailable). Ecocentric also have has some incredible looking hair products but they are not a cheap alternative. They sell styling wax, heat styling protection pomade and conditioning treatments that all avoid using plastics.
Sadly with their high prices and postage costs and often less than generous serving portions, this is one of the less convenient changes to make. As for hairsprays and other such holding products, I think DIYs might be the most realistic, plastic free alternative.
Since discovering their existence I have exclusively used bamboo toothbrushes. It took a couple brushes to get used to the sensation of using a wooden toothbrush but really it is no different to using a regular toothbrush. The key feature is that once exhausted the brush is fully biodegradable (although in our house they tend to get used for kindling). I get mine from Save Some Green.
If wooden toothbrushes really aren’t your thing you could try Preserve Toothbrushes; a plastic toothbrush that is ‘made from yoghurt cups’. You aren’t removing the plastic from your bathroom but you are minimising the damage caused by that plastic (although annoyingly they are packaged in plastic).
Of all the changes I have made in my bathroom habits, changing my toothpaste was the biggie for me. Whilst I can experiment with deodorants and shampoos, safe in the knowledge that the worst case scenario is I pong a bit – sensitive teeth and a dislike of the dentists mean compromise in the tooth department is not an option.
Whilst lots of ‘eco’ toothpastes are available, almost all use plastic packaging. Toms of Maine were one of the few that used aluminium cases which could be recycled however they too have reverted to plastic recently (and in all honesty, the process that makes aluminium isn’t really all that grand).
In the end, after reading about lots of different tooth powders, I went for the most easily available option in the UK – Lush’s Toothy Tabs. These come in a cardboard box containing 40 toothpaste tablets, which you chew on. Once you’ve chewed on them they foam the same as regular toothpaste and then you brush your teeth as you would normally. Like tubed toothpaste, different tabs have different properties: Dirty is your bog-standard toothpaste; Atomic has antibacterial and antiseptic properties for combating particularly bad breath; whilst Sparkle is the one to pick for tooth whitening. (October 2015 edit: these flavours are no longer available – but look here to see the ones which are)
Once you get past the weirdness of a non-tube based toothpaste, this has been both my most reluctant and my favourite change so far. In fact, when you forget to pack your toothy tabs and are required to borrow regular toothpaste at a friend’s house, you will be in awe that you ever could stand such a sludgy, saccharine product.
Again the market is saturated with ‘eco’ deodorants, all of which are heavy on the plastic; for example the Pit Powder deodorants look great, but you can only buy the product in a plastic pot.
Over the past few years I have tried many times to get along with the crystal deodorants that you can buy but, whilst some people swear by them, I never felt that they really worked for me. On quiet, wintery days they suffice but even mention the word exercise and their powers begin to fade.
I believe Lush deodorant bars are the best option available; they are basically a roll-on deodorant without the plastic. I have used Aromaco for the last six months have no plans to change.
Bath Time Luxuries
Bath time is probably the highlight of my week and it is also probably the one of the easiest bathroom functions to keep plastic free.
- Lush have a colourful selection of bubble bath bars, the perfect alternative to traditional liquid bubble bath, a little crumbled into running water goes a long way.
- The Oakwood Soaperie sell perfect looking, luxurious bubble bath bars and bath bombs at affordable prices
- The Eco Bath Company sell therapeutic, calming bath bombs either individually or by the kilo for the heavy duty soakers among us
I hope this guide helps you make a few changes to your bathroom shopping list. A lot of Lush products have been included here because I depend on their products every single morning and I am a sucker for convenience – being able to get everything in one place is very appealing! This by no means makes them the only or best product available – but they work for me!
Thanks Jai – what a great read! It’s certainly made me think about the products I use, what about you?
Be sure to have a read of Tea for Bohemia – it’s Jai’s daily chronicle, in which she documents her daily life and the simple things she does to help the environment . It’s a daily favourite of mine.